The majority of light novel are printed by four Tokyo-based publishers: Kodansha, Shueisha, Shogakukan, and Hakusensha. Midsized publishers include Akita Shoten, MediaWorks, Square Enix (better known for their video games), Kadokawa Shoten, Ohzora Shuppan, Futabasha, and Shônen Gahosha. A vast number of smaller publishers exist as well, often focusing on niche markets such as sex comics and so-called Boys’ Love light novel for girls.

Although reading habits are changing, most light novel are still published in thick magazines containing anywhere from ten to forty different stories. Magazines are aimed at a particular gender and age group, and although they use many different artists, they often have a house style or theme. Some stories are self-contained, but most continue from issue to issue. Weekly and biweekly magazines are about 450 pages and cost 250–300 yen (about $3–$4). Monthly magazines and zôkan (special editions) range in size and price, all the way up to 600–700 yen and a whopping 800–1,000 pages. (In 2006, the typical American comic book cost $2 for 32 pages.)

Although almost all light novel are printed in black and white, occasionally the first few pages of a chapter are printed in color, as a bonus to readers. These pages are usually reprinted in black and white when the story is collected as a graphic novel. Many magazines have some non-light novel content, such as columns by the artists or guest writers, news articles, celebrity interviews, or promotions for upcoming books, movies, anime, and video games. Most magazines have prizes and giveaways—whether the prizes are Louis Vuitton bags (in Young You, a magazine aimed at college-age and twentysomething women) or Yu-Gi-Oh! cards (in the boys’ magazine Weekly Shônen Jump).

After being serialized in magazines, individual light novel are reprinted as graphic novels. If you wouldn’t want to pay for a whole magazine just to read your one favorite light novel, you’re not alone; in 2005 in Japan, the total amount of graphic novel sales exceeded light novel magazine sales for the first time. Tankôbon (usually called “graphic novels” in English) cost about 400 yen and contain about 184 pages of a single story. A few years after the tankôbon comes out, really popular series are reprinted as teeny bunkoban (pocket editions) or thick kanzenban (perfect editions) of 300 pages or more. Most translated light novel are printed in a format close to tankôbon.


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